Qualitative & Quantitative Research Research Paper Starter

Qualitative & Quantitative Research

Quantitative and qualitative research are the two dominant research paradigms or methodologies used in the human and social sciences. Both quantitative and qualitative research are modes of inquiry that use different methods to acquire answers to social phenomena. Purists believe that researchers who use either the quantitative or qualitative approach to research look at how the world is viewed and what is important to know differently from one another. Onwuegbuzie and Leech (2005) state that there are those in the research world who do not advocate the mixing of these two research methods. Researchers who consider themselves pragmatists advocate integrating methods within a single study (Creswell, 1994). Sieber (1973) states that researchers can actually utilize the strengths of both methodologies in any given study in order to understand social phenomena. There has been a recent growth in the mixing of quantitative and qualitative approaches, as researchers look to all available research techniques to address the research questions, rather than promote a preconceived bias toward one methodology or another (Sechrest & Sidani, 1995).

Keywords Data; Dependent Variable; Experiment; Factor; Independent Variable; Modes of inquiry; Qualitative Data; Quantitative Data; Pragmatic researcher; Reliability; Research methods; Surveys; Theory; Triangulation; Validity

Overview

Quantitative and qualitative research are the two dominant research paradigms, or methodologies, used in the human and social sciences. Both quantitative and qualitative research are modes of inquiry that use different methods to acquire answers to social phenomena. Purists advocate a mono-method, a single approach to research. Purists believe that researchers who use either the quantitative or qualitative approach to research look at how the world is viewed and what is important to know differently from one another. Onwuegbuzie and Leech (2005) state that there are those in the research world who do not advocate the mixing of these two research methods. However, Onwuegbuzie and Leech (2005) further assert that the choice of research methodology should be dependent upon the research questions. Researchers who consider themselves pragmatists advocate integrating methods within a single study (Creswell, 1994). Sieber (1973) states that researchers can actually utilize the strengths of both methodologies - quantitative and qualitative - in any given study in order to understand social phenomena. As Miles and Huberman (1984) state, "Epistemological purity doesn't get research done" (p. 21). To pragmatists, research methodologies are "merely tools that are designed to aid our understanding of the world" (Onwuegbuzie & Leech, 2005, p. 376).

Quantitative Research

The philosophical framework for quantitative research (often called the traditional, positivist, experimental, or empiricist paradigm) is based on the empiricist tradition established by such authorities as Comte, Mill, Durkheim, Newton and Locke (Smith, 1983; Creswell, 1994). To a positivist researcher, reality is objective and independent of the researcher. Research is formal, value-free and unbiased. There are two types of quantitative methodologies: experiment or survey. The process itself is deductive in nature, with a cause-effect approach to the research. The researcher generalizes, leading to predictions, explanations, and understandings (Creswell, 1994). Quantitative studies are considered accurate, valid and reliable (Guba and Lincoln, 1989). According to positivists, since pure quantitative methodologies are objective in nature, if any part of the research possesses a subjective element, then any interpretation of the data must be ultimately subjective (Onwuegbuzie and Leech, 2005).

Variables

The components of quantitative research include measuring subjects and reporting the results. Any experiment tests cause and effect of the sample population. The researcher identifies independent variables, called treatment conditions or factors in an experiment. Rosenthal and Rosnow (1991) identify five examples of independent variables:

• Biological events (such as food deprivation);

• Social environments;

• Hereditary factors;

• Previous training and experience; and

• Maturity.

Dependent variables are also identified, and are described by Creswell (1994) as "the responses or the criterion variables presumed to be "caused" or influenced by the independent variable" (p. 129).

The research design provides a description of a random representation of the population. In other words, the study outlines the selection of subjects and how many will participate in the experiment. The researcher states how the random sample will be selected.

Collecting Data

Random sampling allows for the researcher to generalize the findings of the study to an entire population. The researcher carefully designs the data instrument, giving a rationale for its selection as a tool for collecting data. The instrument can be one that the researcher designed himself or herself, an instrument that the researcher can modify that has been used in another study, or an intact instrument that has been used by another researcher. Permission must be acquired before a researcher uses an instrument that has been used in a previous research study. A pre-existing instrument should already have an established validity and reliability. Creswell (1994) states that "during an experiment, a researcher makes observations or obtain measures by using instruments at a pre-test and post-test stage" (p. 129). Researchers will create treatment conditions and develop a step-by-step procedure for conducting the experiment.

Qualitative Research

Qualitative research is based on a constructivist or naturalist approach and began as a countermovement to the positivist paradigm (Creswell, 1994). To the qualitative researcher, reality is subjective and seen through the eyes of the participants in the study. The researcher interacts with the subjects through the emerging design of the research project. The process is inductive in nature, and patterns or theories are developed through the research process (Guba & Lincoln, 1989). Creswell (1994) outlines four qualitative research designs that are frequently found in human and social science research:

• Ethnographies, in which a researcher studies a cultural group in a natural setting during a specified period of time;

• Grounded theory, in which a researcher develops a theory through multiple stages of data collection and compares it with other theories found in the literature;

• Case studies, in which a researcher explores a single phenomena that occurs during a defined time or activity and collects data; and,

• Phenomenological studies, in which a researcher examines a human experience through detailed descriptions.

Perceived Differences Between Quantitative

Gall, Borg, and Gall (1996) have developed an outline of the assumed differences between quantitative and qualitative research, which are as follows:

• Quantitative researchers view causal relationships among social phenomena from a mechanistic perspective, while qualitative researchers assign human intentions a major role in explaining causal relationships among social phenomena.

• Quantitative researchers assume an objective social reality, whereas qualitative researchers assume that social reality is constructed by the participants.

• Quantitative researchers assume that social reality is relatively constant across time and settings, whereas qualitative researchers assume that social reality is continuously constructed in social situations.

• Quantitative researchers take an objective, detached stance towards research participants and their setting, whereas qualitative researchers become personally involved with research participants.

• Quantitative researchers study populations or samples that represent populations, while qualitative researchers study cases.

• Quantitative researchers study behavior and other observable phenomena, while qualitative researchers study the meanings that individuals create and other internal phenomena.

• Quantitative researchers study human behavior in natural or contrived settings, while qualitative researchers study human actions in natural settings.

• Quantitative researchers use preconceived concepts and theories to determine what data will be collected, while qualitative researchers discover concepts and theories after data have been collected.

• Quantitative researchers generate numerical data to represent the social environment, while qualitative researchers generate verbal and pictorial data to represent the social environment.

• Quantitative researchers use statistical methods to analyze data, whereas qualitative researchers use analytic induction to analyze data.

• Quantitative researchers study human behavior in natural or contrived settings, while qualitative researchers study human actions in natural settings.

• Quantitative researchers use statistical inference procedures to generalize findings from a sample to a defined population, whereas qualitative researchers generalize case findings by searching for other similar cases.

• Quantitative researchers prepare impersonal, objective reports of research findings, while qualitative researchers prepare interpretative reports reflecting researchers' constructions of the data and an awareness that readers will form their own constructions from what is reported (Gall, Borg, & Gall, 1996, p. 30).

Combining the Two Methods

For pragmatists who advocate that the research question drives the choice of research methodology, the mixing of quantitative and qualitative methodologies is a possibility...

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